Explosions & Refinery Accident Lawyers

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Attorneys Serving Workers Injured at Chemical Plants in Houston, Texas, and Throughout the Nation

Oil and gas is big business in Houston and other areas of Texas. With multiple companies employing tens of thousands of workers in the industry, many people in the state make their living through work at refineries and other facilities.

Working in the oil and gas industry is dangerous. However, when companies follow the proper procedures, the risk of serious injuries and death should decrease. Unfortunately, corporations often put profits ahead of their employees’ safety.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a refinery or other chemical plant, or you lost a loved one at one of these facilities, contact Patrick Daniel Law at (713) 999-6666 today for a free case review. Our team serves clients in the greater Houston area, all of Texas, and nationwide.

How Many Refineries Are in the Houston Area?

The Houston metro area is home to 10 major oil refineries. According to the Greater Houston Partnership, these refineries are responsible for processing more than 45 percent of the oil produced in Texas. Refineries in other areas of Texas, including Port Arthur, Galveston, Corpus Christi, Baytown, and Beaumont, are responsible for more than one-fourth of all oil production in the United States.

What this means is that tens of thousands of workers in our state are employed in refineries. The Houston Chronicle reported in 2020 that Texas as a whole boasts nearly 150,000 workers in the oil and gas industry.

Refineries play an important role in the economy of Houston and all of Texas. As a result, it is important for oil and gas workers to know their rights if they are injured in an accident or explosion on the job.

Why You Need a Refinery Accident Lawyer | Patrick Daniel Law

Causes of Refinery Accidents

Working with hazardous chemicals comes with a number of dangers. Fires, explosions, and exposure to toxic materials are just a few of the accidents that can endanger workers’ health and safety.

However, these are not the only dangers workers face. Other causes of accidents in these workplaces include:

  • Falling objects
  • Being caught in or between equipment
  • Falls from heights
  • Electrocution

Accidents in oil and gas facilities may be the result of:

  • Defective equipment, including boilers, pipes, pumps, tanks, and more
  • Poor maintenance of equipment
  • Failure to detect corrosion of metal parts
  • Using natural gas to clean pipes
  • Buildup of pressurized and flammable gases
  • Buildup of combustible dust and particulates

Another leading factor in plant and refinery accidents is negligent supervision of workers. Oil and gas companies have a responsibility to ensure that employees are in compliance with federal safety regulations governing their operations. When supervisors and managers fail to do their jobs, serious and even deadly accidents may occur.

Inadequate training of employees may also be a factor in refinery and plant accidents. Ultimately, the company is responsible for ensuring that its employees abide by workplace safety standards and know how to handle heavy equipment and dangerous materials safely. Disaster often occurs when companies cut corners on employee training.

Injuries in Plant & Refinery Accidents

Given the hazardous chemicals involved, accidents at plants and refineries carry a high risk of serious, life-altering injuries. These include:

Tragically, in some cases workers perish from their injuries in refinery and chemical plant accidents, with catastrophic events like explosions and fires often resulting in multiple fatalities. These disasters also present long-term risks, as those exposed may later develop severe respiratory illness, cancer, and other serious illnesses due to the release of toxic chemicals.

Explosions and fires at refineries and petrochemical plants can be devastating not only for workers who are on site, but for nearby communities as well. Homes have been damaged and entire neighborhoods in the vicinity of a plant or refinery have been evacuated in the wake of explosions and fires.

What Occupational Illnesses Are Associated with Refinery Work?

Oil and gas workers come into contact with a wide range of hazardous chemicals and other materials on a daily basis. Mishandling these materials poses a risk of serious physical injury. However, the potential harm of petrochemicals is not confined to traumatic events such as fires, explosions, and inhalation of fumes.

Workers may suffer severe health issues as a result of long-term exposure to substances such as:

  • Asbestos: The link between asbestos and the devastating cancer mesothelioma is well-established. Unfortunately, asbestos still appears in the equipment used in oil refineries.
  • Diesel exhaust: Short-term, inhaling diesel fumes can irritate the lungs and mucous membranes. Long-term exposure increases the risk of lung cancer and other respiratory disorders, as well as heart disease.
  • Benzene: A 2020 study found that 10 oil refineries in the United States (six of them located in Texas) were emitting unsafe levels of benzene into the air. Multiple forms of leukemia (cancer of the blood) are associated with exposure to benzene.
  • Lead: Lead poisoning can lead to a range of health problems, including anemia, poor function of the kidneys, digestive issues, neurological problems, and more.
  • Silica: Inhaling silica dust can scar the lungs and make it difficult to breathe. Long-term exposure to crystalline silica can result in silicosis, a chronic lung disease.
  • Sulfur dioxide: Sulfur dioxide is another common air pollutant emitted by oil refineries. Acute exposure can cause difficulty breathing as well as irritation and burning of the skin and eyes. Those exposed to sulfur dioxide long-term may develop chronic lung ailments.
  • Hydrogen sulfide: Inhalation of hydrogen sulfide can result in a number of negative health impacts ranging from difficulty breathing and headaches to cognitive dysfunction and fatigue. Breathing in a significant amount of hydrogen sulfide at one time can result in loss of consciousness and even death.

If your employer has workers’ compensation insurance, you may be entitled to benefits covering medical expenses and loss of wages if an occupational illness limits your ability to work. However, if workers’ compensation is not available, you will need to prove that your employer and/or a third party was negligent in exposing you to dangerous substances on the job.

The lawyers at Patrick Daniel Law can investigate the safety practices, employee training, and equipment used at the refinery to determine if one or more parties were negligent in their duty to protect workers like you from toxic exposure. Our refinery accident attorneys fully explore your legal options for recovering compensation.

Representing Injured Oil Refinery Workers in Houston

Liability for Refinery and Plant Accidents

You might think workers’ compensation is your only recourse after suffering an injury on the job at a refinery or plant. However, this may not be the only avenue you have for recovery.

If the accident was the result of extreme negligence on the company’s part, you may be able to sue for the losses you and your family have sustained. Other parties may be liable as well, including:

  • The manufacturer of defective equipment at the plant
  • A company that fails to label dangerous equipment or hazardous materials
  • Companies that own and operate tanker trucks coming into or going out of the refinery
  • Contractors and subcontractors involved in the construction of the plant

Major oil and gas companies will always try to pass the buck when an accident happens. When you contact an experienced attorney, you improve the likelihood of recovering the compensation you deserve from the party or parties responsible.

Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Refinery Accidents?

You may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if you are hurt in a refinery accident or explosion. Surviving family members may also be entitled to benefits if a petroleum worker is killed in the course of his or her employment.

However, several factors can complicate your ability to receive benefits for a work-related injury or death:

1. Texas Has Minimal Protections for Workers

The majority of states require most employers doing business within their borders to carry certain minimum amounts of workers’ compensation insurance. However, Texas does not require private employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage.

Employers that subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance provide the following benefits in the event of worker injury or death:

  • Medical benefits: Pays for reasonable medical expenses associated with treatment of a work-related injury or illness.
  • Income benefits: Provides replacement of lost wages if you are unable to work. Income benefits are categorized by the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) as follows:
    • Temporary income benefits: Pays 70 percent of the “difference between your average weekly wage and the money you are able to earn after your work-related injury” if your injury renders you unable to work for more than seven days.
    • Impairment income benefits: Pays 70 percent of your average weekly wage if you suffer whole body impairment due to an employment-related accident or illness. How long you are eligible for impairment income benefits depends on an impairment rating determined by a healthcare provider. 
    • Supplemental income benefits: Pays 80 percent of “the difference between 80% of your average weekly wage … and any wages you got after your work-related injury.” Your eligibility for supplemental income benefits is dependent on your ability to return to work and your impairment rating.
    • Lifetime income benefits: Pays 75 percent of your average weekly wage, subject to a yearly 3 percent increase, if you suffer certain catastrophic injuries recognized by DWC.
  • Death benefits: Spouses, children, and other dependent family members may be entitled to benefits representing 75 percent of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage. Burial benefits of up to $10,000 may be available to defray costs associated with funeral services.

Obviously, workers’ compensation benefits only cover a portion of the losses you and your loved ones may sustain as a result of a refinery accident. However, the benefit of a workers’ compensation claim is that you do not have to prove negligence on the part of your employer or another party. As a result, oil and gas workers are typically compensated sooner for injuries and illnesses suffered on the job.

But, if your employer does not participate in a workers’ compensation insurance program, you may need to file a lawsuit to recover damages. Your employer and other negligent third parties may be held liable for refinery accidents, explosions, toxic exposure, and other harmful events.

2. You May Be Misclassified as an Independent Contractor

The petroleum industry is notorious for its routine misclassification of workers. Although you may be an employee in every meaningful respect, on paper you may be identified by the company as an independent contractor.

In addition to cheating workers out of benefits, overtime pay, and more, misclassification can create problems for workers who are injured or get sick on the job. Employers are not required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for independent contractors. So, even if your employer is insured, you may be denied benefits if the company has misclassified you as a contractor.

At Patrick Daniel Law, we will discuss not only your injuries from the refinery accident but the nature of your employment. Our team will obtain records from your employer to determine how you are classified. If there is evidence of misclassification, our attorneys can build a claim on your behalf for the benefits and other compensation you deserve.

3. Federal Workers’ Compensation Law May Apply

In addition to refineries in Houston and other oil centers of Texas, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico host a significant portion of the petroleum industry. Oil platforms off the coast of Texas and other southeastern states drill, process, and store a significant volume of oil and gas.

Working on an oil rig at sea is dangerous. If you are injured or become sick, your path to compensation probably lies not in the state workers’ comp program but with federal legislation known as the Jones Act.

The Jones Act promises “maintenance and cure” to maritime workers who are injured or become ill during the course of their employment at sea. However, recovering fair compensation for an injury on an oil platform or other vessel is not always easy.

Patrick Daniel Law has extensive experience handling maritime injury claims. Our knowledge of both maritime law and work injury in the oil and gas industry gives us keen insight into these complex cases.

Compensation for Plant and Refinery Accidents

Considering the number of people typically affected and the extent and severity of injuries, the damages sought in cases involving explosions, fires, and other accidents at plants and refineries are often very high. And for good reason: The worst oil and gas disasters have resulted in hundreds of serious injuries and multiple deaths.

The amount of compensation recoverable in your claim will depend on your individual losses. Generally, you may be able to recover damages for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity, if you are unable to work going forward
  • Out-of-pocket expenses related to your injury (i.e., medications; a cane, crutches, or wheelchair; travel to and from doctor appointments; modifications to your home and/or vehicle; etc.)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Loss of consortium

At Patrick Daniel Law, we are strategic in our approach to each case. We meticulously build your claim based on the evidence and the injuries you have suffered. Then, we mercilessly pursue the compensation you deserve from all of the parties at fault.

Fire and Explosion at an Oil Refinery

Wrongful Death Claims in Plant and Refinery Accidents

Fatalities are a common, tragic occurrence in oil and gas facility disasters. If you lose a loved one in a fire, explosion, or other accident at a plant or a refinery, our lawyers can pursue a wrongful death claim on your family’s behalf.

The damages recoverable in a wrongful death claim will depend on the losses you and your family have suffered. Generally, you may be able to recover compensation for:

  • Lost income
  • Loss of benefits and inheritance
  • Cost of funeral services and burial or cremation
  • Loss of care and household services
  • Medical expenses prior to your loved one’s death
  • Loss of consortium, care, and companionship
  • Loss of parental guidance (if the deceased had children)

The loss of a loved one is emotionally devastating. It can also put your family in difficult financial circumstances. If your loved one worked in oil and gas and his or her death is the result of negligence on the part of the company or another party, you deserve to be compensated.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Refinery Accident Claim?

Accidents in oil refineries involve a wide variety of complex issues. It is in your best interest to speak to an attorney as soon as possible if you have been injured or a loved one was killed in a refinery accident or explosion.

At Patrick Daniel Law, we are Strategic, Meticulous, and Merciless in handling our clients’ claims. Our team performs comprehensive investigations to determine how the accident occurred and who is at fault.

Injuries and accidents at oil refineries, chemical plants, and other petroleum sites typically involve a host of factors. Multiple parties may be at fault for injuries sustained by workers. Our attorneys meticulously gather evidence, hire experts, and develop an individualized legal strategy to take on all of the liable parties. We explore all avenues for your recovery, assessing the pertinent state and federal laws to determine all of the options you have for filing a claim.

Merciless legal representation means we never settle your case for less. Whether in insurance company negotiations or in court, our lawyers are committed to pursuing the compensation you and your family deserve.

What Is the Time Limit on Refinery Accident Claims?

Because refinery accidents may give rise to multiple claims, several different time limits may apply in your case. The workers’ compensation law in Texas mandates that any injury or illness must be reported to an employer within 30 days. Workers have one year to file a claim for benefits. Maritime oil and gas workers have three years to file a claim under the Jones Act.

Personal injury and wrongful death claims stemming from a refinery accident must be brought within two years. This includes negligence-based claims against your employer and/or a third party, such as a contractor, property owner, etc., as well as product liability claims against the maker(s) of a defective product.

How Patrick Daniel Law Can Help with Your Refinery Accident Case

After the fires are extinguished in the wake of a refinery or plant accident, an extensive investigation will generally follow. Agencies such as the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) will determine what caused the explosion or fire. Other accidents may be investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state or local authorities. The company will likely perform its own investigation as well.

Although the findings of CSB, OSHA, and other agencies are crucial for getting to the bottom of oil and gas industry accidents, it is important to have your own qualified legal team who can investigate the accident on your behalf and protect your rights and interests.

The attorneys at Patrick Daniel Law have extensive experience in complex litigation claims. We gather crucial evidence and work with experts in the oil and gas industry and other fields to determine what caused the accident. Then, we strategically and meticulously build your claim, and mercilessly pursue the full compensation you deserve.

See what our clients have to say about working with Patrick Daniel Law.

Considering the important role the petroleum industry plays in the Texas economy, oil and gas companies may seem untouchable. This is not the case, and the lawyers at Patrick Daniel Law make it their mission to hold negligent companies accountable for serious accidents at oil refineries and chemical plants.

Contact Our Explosion & Refinery Accident Lawyers Today

Workers in the oil and gas industry know the risks when they go to work. However, what they don’t expect is the company to take shortcuts that compromise their safety. If you were injured or lost a loved one in a fire, explosion, or other accident at a plant or refinery, Patrick Daniel Law has the knowledge, experience, and tenacity to help you and your family.

Please call (713) 999-6666 or contact us online today for a free consultation. Our lawyers serve oil and gas workers throughout the Houston area and all of Texas, as well as nationwide.

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